Monday, March 25, 2013

Goodbye -or- "Unhappy horses don’t jump THAT!"

There was a snowstorm moving in on Saturday. I waffled about going to the barn, but I decided one last ride in the outdoor before the snow fell would be beneficial to my outlook and to the horses’ training. So, I bundled up and headed out.

I started with the Psycho mare and really focused on *maintaining* canter and STEERING! Then, we ended by jumping her first solid obstacle. Yay! She was only a little naughty. I think she felt the storm coming, because she was quite full of herself.

The Old Man was also feeling good! We had some enthusiastic lengthenings, and he was feeling particularly sound, so I popped him over some fences. He was all over it! We had jumping, we had lead changes… There was a low and very WIDE spread set up…
My mom said, "before or after it fell down?"

I had never asked him to jump anything like that before, but he was so into it, I put him at it.  He never even hesitated!  It was as if he said, “Just sit back and relax, Mom.  I’ve got this!”  So, we jumped another 3 or 4 times before the snow started.  As the flakes fell around us, I moved on to cooling out.  I could tell he was feeling particularly proud of himself.  I’m not sure why the impulse struck me to take pictures, but he was really hamming it up.
....I'm sexy and I know it...
Sunday, I found him like this:
Why do you look drunk!?
I wanted to lead him to the barn so I could further evaluate what was going on with him. He was drooling a little. He took a couple steps for me, but his back end looked strangely wobbly. I thought it was old, cold, stiff joints. I headed up to the barn to grab a whip to encourage him to just walk on through the mud and get moving. I could tell things just were not ok.

When I got back, a minute or two later, he was down. His butt was in the mud and he acted like he couldn’t get his legs under him to get up. With help, I rolled him over as if he were cast. With more leg room and slightly firmer mud, he heaved himself up. My help ran for more help. He looked so unstable! Moments later, he went down again. He just sat down in the mud.

More help arrived. He tried to get up a couple more times, then seized briefly. Moments later, he was gone…

I am so grateful for so many things! From start to finish, it couldn’t have been more than half an hour. When I lost my cool, there were plenty of other people who did the “nothing I could do” for me. They brought me his hair. I am grateful that I could be there, that it was fast. A gentleman to the end, the Old Man left me absolutely no difficult choices to make. Many people have told me that his symptoms are consistent with stroke, heart attack, or other heart failure. He didn’t suffer long. It was almost as if he waited for me.

I didn’t have to decide to retire him. I didn’t have to decide to euthanize him. I just held him. He was my first horse.
Hunter Hack - 2002

Coach looked at the photos I had taken on Saturday.  She said, "Oh, yeah, you definitely have a happy horse there.  Besides, unhappy horses don’t jump THAT!”

the day before...

Old Man, you touched so many hearts and so many lives.  We all miss you already.  Run Free!


  1. Thanks for sharing Jacq. I am glad you were there with him. I believe he waited for you, too. I praise God for giving you one more great ride to remember him by.

  2. Wow... what a story. Rest in peace Old Man :-)



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